Arthur D. Hellman on The Supreme Court’s Shrunken “Discuss List”
Professor Arthur Hellman of the University of Pittsburgh is one of the great academic experts on the Supreme Court’s case selection process. He recently wrote to me with a very interesting insight about the Supreme Court’s “discuss list,” which I asked him to elaborate on for readers of the blog.
His thoughts are below:
The Supreme Court’s Shrunken “Discuss List”
Arthur D. Hellman
Buried in the commentary to the Supreme Court’s new Code of Conduct is some never-before-disclosed information about how the Court selects its cases for plenary consideration. It’s only two sentences, but there’s a lot to be mined from it. Here is the passage (on p. 11):
The Court receives approximately 5,000 to 6,000 petitions for writs of certiorari each year. Roughly 97 percent of this number may be and are denied at a preliminary stage, without joint discussion among the Justices, as lacking any reasonable prospect of certiorari review.
Preliminarily, the Court’s reference to “approximately 5,000 to 6,000 petitions for writs of certiorari [received] each year” does not tell the whole story. A decade ago, according to the Court’s official statistics sheets, the number was above 7,000 (7,509 in the 2012 Term). But the number has trended downward since then, and in the most recent term (2022) the total number of new filings was under 4,200 – about 1,250 paid cases and about 2,900 in forma pauperis (IFP). (The statistics sheet is page 2 of each PDF.)
We can assume that the commentary to the Court’s new code was written with some care. What do the Justices mean when they say that about 97 percent of the petitions “are denied at a preliminary stage, without joint discussion among the Justices?” In all likelihood, this is a refere
Article from Reason.com
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